June in 2022 has been wet and cool. It’s fantastic in so many ways, I’m grateful for the cool comfortable working conditions, the abundance of water on the land, and lower fire danger, at least for now. Our currant weather satellite shows moisture vortexes being pulled up from the tropical southwest, this Pineapple Express has continued to carry atmospheric rivers into the Pacific Northwest, and it’s making the lush green forest and pastures thick with vegetation. Last summer I ran the weed wacker only a few times. Now, I am cutting back incursions of blackberry every few days. I wish the vegetable garden was as enthusiastic about this weather, though some crops are thriving, like sweet peas, and the beets have not yet bolted.
But the bee hive is struggling, cold, and unable to pollinate flowers that wilted early in the damp cool environment which persists. It’s not going to be a boom year for hot weather crops that take so much time to mature in the short warmer summer days this far north. I’ve tried to move away from greenhouse extenders. If I want tomatoes, I will go to the farmer’s market and buy a flat of tomatoes from the east side of The Cascades to enjoy and can for future need during the winter. I’ve focused more on what grows well here, from kale to nettles, there are fresh greens that thrive 8 months out of the year, and with cold frames, I have enjoyed kale and lettuce year round when I’m attentive. But in the ten years I’ve spent working with the soil in this place, I’ve come to realize I’m not a passionate gardener. I prefer establishing perennial shrubs and reforestation. My food production focus has and always will be the animals. The livestock build up enough fertility in this lifetime for a future forest to return.
We received a lot of grapple in early spring this year. It’s a nice slow seep way to get water on the land, and in the soil. I worried that the hard ice pellets would disrupt fruit blossoming, but the flowers seemed to dodge any major bruising, as fruit is starting to form on the pollinated buds. If I try too comprehend the continued exaggeration of climate shifts, then perhaps this grapple might grow to serious hail size in future, thus destroying the fruit tree blossoms down the road. I could also see things swinging in a warmer direction, in which our summers become long drought periods, which we’re already planning for with the pillow tank for irrigation, and earthworks to slow and sink all the water we can during the rainy season.
By mid July, 2022, we’ve experienced only one weekend of real heat, but it came in a great swing from mid 60s to low 90s overnight. That was a shock to most of the vegetation, and the animals I’m sure. In the swelter, our hive was robbed by other opportunistic bees looking desperately for food. We began the seasonal ritual of sealing up the house- including insulation sheets in the windows, and fans circulating the air inside as humidity rises. Last year, 2021, when we had a week of high 90s and a record braking 112F on our front porch, we invested in a standing AC unit, which will keep the appliances (like our fridge) from failing. It’s also a lifeline for us, as our inside temperatures last year reached 92F. On that day, my partner had mild heatstroke and spent some time in a cold shower to moderate his body temperature. Outside, our dogs had a shady plunge pool and the sheep hung out in a thicket to stay cool.
We’re going to climb back into the mid 90s next week, and it will be a time of strain for all the plants and animals, including us. We’re planning for weather like this to continue, and planting future generations of forest that can adapt. At EEC Forest Stewardship, we’re looking at the extremes to come- like harsher winters with heavier snow, and grapple that might one day turn to hail, like the events seen in Europe this Spring (2022). I’m also thinking about wind, wind and tall trees with shallow root systems. Yes, the weather keeps me up at night- especially when I sit and watch the treetops dancing ominously, listening for any snaps or pops near the house. But the greatest threat is fire. This year, we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by a damp Spring and cool start to summer. Now, with two weeks of little rain, surfaces exposed to sun are drying up fast, and watering regiments dictate daily routine.
As the pendulum swings towards further extremes, we have to think about resiliency and catastrophic response capacity within community. Here in King County, there are well established response plans and evacuation centers setup throughout our region. Knowing where to go and when is important, so look into local protocols where you live. Have regularly updated first aid supplies for home, and a weeks worth of food and water rations. Create your own emergency response kit and check in with friends and neighbors about their preparedness. Make evacuations plans and know how to walk to safety if roads are blocked. We’ve experienced sheltering in place for COVID, and that taught a lot of important lessons for our future preparedness. Know that chances are slim, but by having your own ducks in a row, you can then support others in their time of need. This is the greatest importance of preparedness, by having a plan and resources in place, community as a whole becomes stronger in the face of coming change.